Sharing: What’s in it for me!?

This is an extended version of the ignite from DevOpsDays Seattle, with more content and delves into the darker side of sharing.

Sharing. It’s one of the four pillars of CAMS. We consume so much shared content but have we ever thought about sharing from the point of view of the Sharer? Why should I share? If I’m constantly sharing information what do I get out of it? What’s in it for me!?

This ignite talk looks at sharing through the eyes of a Sharer. What benefits do they receive out of sharing? What cultural or psychological benefits are there?

A huge thank you to Tiffany and Michael for their awesome editing and being the best rubber ducks.




Hi, I’m Glenn Sarti. I have two young daughters, and I tell them; “Sharing is Caring”, but as adults is that really true?  In the world of IT is sharing important? When the term DevOps was first coined, by Damon Edwards and John Willis, back in 2010 they thought it was.  Back then DevOps had the four pillars of CAMS; Culture, Automation, Measurement and Sharing. Sharing was so important that it had its OWN pillar. And yet …

I went back through all of the previous DevOpsDays conference talks, and out of more than 1500, only a handful were about Sharing! In fact the most Sharing focused talk I could find, was by Patrick Debois back in 2012 The description of his talk was;

“Many devops talks relate to the CAMS acronym. The S for Sharing is usually taken for granted and does not get much explanation, but in this talk it will be right in the centre. Without Sharing there is no Devops and successful adoption is impossible.”

So today I want to help even that score by appealing to your selfish side and answer the question: “Sharing. What’s in it for me?”

And, strangely enough, the most selfish way to share, is not to share with anyone. Instead share with a Rubber Duck!

Rubber ducking is a technique that as you share a problem or idea with the Duck, it helps the solution become clearer. You start talking through a complex problem and mid sentence, and Bing a light bulb goes off, and the answer just appears! There are many thoughts about why this works but here’s two:

The first, Your mouth is slower than your brain. When you are speaking to your duck, it forces your brain to slow down and process information in depth.

The second, you need to take into account what the Duck knows (Which is nothing!) It forces you to think from another point of view and then see other solutions.

By taking the time to explain your problem to a duck and provide the context that the duck needs to understand, you are telling a story, and story telling is a very powerful tool.

David JP Phillips makes this simple point in his talk “The magical science of storytelling”.

  • 100,000 years ago, we started developing our language, and used stories to transfer knowledge
  • 27,000 years ago, we started transferring knowledge from generation to generation through cave paintings.
  • 3,500 years ago, we started transferring knowledge from generation to generation through texts
  • 31 years ago, PowerPoint was born. Which one do you think our brain is mostly adapted to? Slides or Stories?

We are wired to listen and to tell stories, and there’s one story that is the most important to all of us.  It’s our own story - This is autobiographical storytelling.

This is Dr. Sherry Hamby who is a Research Professor of Psychology, at the University of the South

She is also the Director of the Life Paths research center which is a research institute devoted to learning about the ways that people develop personal strengths and cope with adversity. And one of the areas she investigates is, storytelling as a means to deal with adversity.

She says;

I have been surprised at the power of emotional, autobiographical storytelling. (This) means writing about events and people that have mattered to you in your own life–not just describing the facts of your lives. Research shows that even brief exercises can have substantial impacts on psychological and physical health even months after.

In particular Dr. Hamby says that through this kind of storytelling, we can build our resilience to Adversity. She and her research team found four benefits;

Firstly, Finding your voice

This means learning how to express yourself and how to think about what has happened in your life in a way that makes sense. It may appear that events in your life are random, but it doesn’t help to think of them like that. Instead, when we write, we have a beginning, middle and end. We can start to see how experiences, good and bad, have shaped us. Finding your voice is just like talking to that rubber duck, you are taking a step back and talking about the context that makes each detail important

Secondly, Re-affirming your values

Just by writing your story it can show where your focus is and clarify what’s important to you. Also what you choose to leave out or minimise can show what is trivial to you. And that “Lightbulb” feeling when you talk to the duck; you get that same feeling when you re-affirm your values

Thirdly, Sharing your story

Writing your story is good, but sharing is an under-appreciated aspect of storytelling. When you share your story and pass on wisdom you realise your words can be a positive power on other people. If you feel nervous about sharing your story to other people, first share it with your duck. It has the same benefits as if it was a highly technical problem. It will help clarify your voice and values, so that when you do actually share your story, it will be amazing!

and Lastly, Building resilience

Once you have found your voice, re-affirmed your values and shared your story, it builds a sense of well-being, which then builds resilience for when adversity next strikes.

Resilience is strengthened by recognizing that we are all experts in our own lives and we all have something to share with others.

So how do you start writing stories then? It’s quite possible you’re already doing this.

If you have a blog, I’m sure you’re writing stories you want to tell, that matter to you, about problems you overcame. Or perhaps at your job you’ve written a post-mortem for an outage. While they tend be less emotional, they are still stories, and are definitely rooted in adversity! Or if you write technical documentation. In particular narrative based documentation. Or code comments, or articles in your company wiki, or even answering questions on forums like Stack Overflow.

These are all forms of autobiographical storytelling. And through this, you can find your voice, and values and share your story.

And this is also backed up by investigations into the IT industry..

The Accelerate State of DevOps Report team, led by Doctor Nicole Forsgren, specifically looked at the culture of low, medium, high and elite performing teams and cautions organisations not to ignore the importance of their people and their culture in technology transformations.

The research found that when leaders give their teams autonomy in their work, it leads to feelings of trust and voice, which then positively influences organizational culture. This is the same Voice that is found during autobiographical storytelling. A good leader will encourage its team to share its stories, which again, builds resilience for when conflicts arise.

The research showed other benefits. Elite performers, which are a subset of high performing teams, are 1 and half times more likely to hold retrospectives than low performers. Having a climate of learning within your organization is predictive of performance gains and is a strategic advantage for teams. For example hack days, internal meetups, or brown bag sessions.

NONE OF WHICH is possible without people sharing their stories and knowledge.

Sharing is a crucial component of any high performing team and without it we’re stuck in low performing teams which none of us want. But let’s think bigger than your own team or even our own organisation.

Let’s think about sharing your story and your experience to the wider IT Industry, through mentoring.

Kris Howard gave an inspiring keynote at the DDD Perth conference in 2017 called “The Campsite Rule”.

The rule originated from Robert Baden-Powell - “To leave this world a little better than you found it”

In this Kris describes her experience of being a mentor; And Kris started out as an accidental mentor!

  • Started out going to a meetup
  • Did a small talk
  • Then I started getting questions from people
  • Then people outside of the group asked questions
  • And then talking to entire groups of people… And then realised she was mentor.

And I imagine many of us in this room are accidental mentors as well.

Being a mentor is not just some wise sage dispensing knowledge from on high. It’s being active in our local communities or companies. It’s sharing our knowledge and experiences. And you get a lot of benefits from being a mentor. It’s not just you giving advice: It’s a conversation. A partnership. You get as much out of it as you put into it.

  • Confidence – We can battle imposter syndrome by becoming confident in our own abilities

  • Perspective – We can gain a broader perspective by talking with other people. Other people are going through the similar experiences

  • Communication – Mentoring improves your communication skills by default. You have to get good at explaining your ideas in different ways

  • Leadership - Up levelling your communication skills leads to increasing your leadership skills. Leadership isn’t so much about what you do or say, but how you influence other people with communication. Just because you’re not a manager doesn’t mean you’re not a leader

  • Adventure – As your perspective shifts you will adventure into new ideas. This allows you to question or consolidate your own technical beliefs and truths. And this then leads to try out new things or technologies that you may not normally consider.

  • Connection - As human beings it feels good to connect and help others. It’s a massive buzz to see someone do what they didn’t think they couldn’t do previously

And there are many different types of mentors that you can be. Again it’s not just a wise sage! There are; Inspirational Mentors, Career Mentors, Tech Mentors, Champions and Peers

And you can be different types to different people at the same time. No matter what type of mentor you are; you will create tangible opportunities to make IT better.

Now as much as I’m painting this whole sharing thing as rainbows and unicorns, there’s a darker side here which we have to talk about. We all have the ability to share, but it’s not safe for all of us to do so.

DAILY we see occurrences where someone shares something; A code snippet, an opinion, or heaven forbid an alternative way of doing something. And they are harassed, bullied and threatened.

But responses to sharing don’t have to just come in those overt forms, it can be more insidious and passive;

  • The intern, or junior developer who suggests something but is dismissed by a senior developer
  • Or the new member on a team who asks a question but is ignored
  • Or being forgotten in the shout-outs from a successful project
  • Or someone else taking the credit for an idea you shared

People are sharing their stories, their thoughts and ideas; and never get to reap the benefits, because it’s not safe to do so.  

And you can see the effects of this in our workplaces here in Australia. This is an extract from the “State of Workplace mental Health in Australia” report from 2014. Where a mentally healthy workplace is one that protects and promotes mental health and empowers people to seek help for depression and anxiety.

91% of employees believe that mental health is important and yet ONLY 52% believe that their workplace is mentally healthy. HALF!!! That’s a shockingly low number.

And mental heath and psychological safety isn’t just important for own well being. It’s a predictor of high performing teams. Not your technical achievements, or org structure or mission statement, but team dynamics and safety.

And so, if you have a voice in your community, if you enjoy the privilege of being able to share your stories without retribution, then you have an obligation to afford others the same. It’s the price of admission for sharing. Give others the space, and most importantly, the safety to share their stories too.

So what could this look like? Let’s take our intern being dismissed example…

So, Morgan the intern was just brushed off during a sprint meeting. We could interrupt and say “Wait a second, I don’t think I fully understand what Morgan was suggesting – can you help me and go a little deeper, please?”. Giving them time to share, and show that we are interested in what they have to say.

And to help fix this long term, we could run a Meeting Skills workshop with this AWESOME FREE training from Valerie Aurora to help make meetings better! So not only are we helping Morgan to be heard, we’re going to help ourselves because we all want meetings to not suck!!

So to answer: Sharing, what’s in it for me?

  • Solving my own, and my teams, problems
  • Thinking from other people’s perspectives
  • Increasing my resilience and mental health through stories
  • Improving my own professional skills using mentoring
  • and lastly making the IT industry a better place to be

Sounds great doesn’t it!!!

I’d like to finish with a final though from the poet James Russell Lowell.

Not what we give, but what we share, For the gift without the giver is bare; Who gives them self with their alms feeds three, Them self, their hungering neighbor, and IT.

Sharing, be it your story, your code, your knowledge; feeds the sharer, just as much as those you are sharing to … And remember to always make room for others to share safely too

To leave IT in a better way than you found it.


Patrick Debois

Rubber Ducking

David JP Phillips

Dr. Sherry Hamby

Dr. Nicole Forsgren

Kris Howard

State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia

Valerie Aurora